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There's more hiding under the bed than you think in 'The Babadook' | SIFF Review

Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman star in Australian horror film
Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman star in Australian horror film 'The Babadook.'
— image credit: Seattle International Film Festival

The Babadook | June 6 at the Egyptian Theatre, June 7 at SIFF Cinema Uptown. 94 minutes.

“The Babadook” is horror done right. This Australian flick largely eschews gore, instead leaning on its lead cast to portray an ever-heightening environment of fear and paranoia.

Essie Davis — an actress hardly recognized stateside, save for a bit part in “The Matrix” sequels and a turn in “Charlotte’s Web” — plays single mother Amelia, who birthed her son on the eve of her husband’s death.

Davis is meek and pitiful as a woman who can’t cope with the wild antics of her son (Noah Wiseman, in a performance both charming and frightening), can’t confront her 7-year-old loss and can’t cope with the well-intentioned meddling of her loved ones. She’s numbly going through the motions of a miserable, if comforting, routine. The appearance of a sinister children’s book, “Mr. Babadook,” brings Amelia’s tensions to their breaking point. As reality crumbles around Amelia, Davis’s performance is a thing to behold, vacillating from rage to confusion to passivity on a dime, without sacrificing believability.

“The Babadook’s” greatest accomplishment is forcing the viewer to question who the monster really is. Is it the titular creature itself? Amelia? Amelia’s son, Samuel? The people they depend on, as they pull further away? Even when the movie seems to make the answer clear, it leaves just enough rope to hang yourself in your own doubts.

 

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